For a team that has been at the bottom of the league in sacks for what has seemed like an eternity, signing a veteran pass rusher the likes of Dwight Freeney is a great move. Expectations for what Freeney can do (he’s 36) should be tempered, but his real impact may not be the sack numbers alone.
If you look at the teams that do the best job of generating sacks, they typically have depth at the pass rush position. At the minimum, Freeney becomes another cog in the machine. Freeney alone doesn’t fix the problem, but pairing him with Shelby, Clayborn, and Beasley adds another dimension of depth and rotation that the team didn’t have before.
Another factor that could be just as important is the time he’ll be able to spend with young pass rusher Vic Beasley. Vic will be entering his second year in the league, and having a seasoned veteran - a highly successful one at that - come into the locker room can only help develop Beasley more. Hell, if he can just show Beasley how to pull off his spin-move, the Falcons would be set for the next 10 years.
On the field, Freeney is likely only going to see between 10 to 15 snaps per game, if that. But as a fresh pass-rusher - and one that is still respected in the league - teams will be forced to commit to double-teaming one of Freeney or Beasley but definitely not both. The best pass rushes have threats from both sides and with Freeney, the Falcons may finally have that. He may not rack up significant sack numbers, but his mere presence should draw attention away from a developing Beasley.
As a one-year signing, it’s obvious this is a stop-gap, but it’s a sensible one. Dwight Freeney can still command respect on the field and giving Vic a seasoned veteran to learn from is a big positive in itself. Don’t expect double-digit sacks from Freeney this year, but don’t be surprised if his impact is substantial nonetheless.